Two new BHS damsels named to honor two diving divas

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Chrysiptera maurinae – Maurine’s damselfish, known only from Cenderawasih Bay. GR Allen photo.

It’s an honor and a great pleasure to announce the recent description of two new BHS endemic damselfishes, named after diving divas Maurine Shimlock and Dr. Ellen Gritz. The two beautiful new fish species were previously considered geographic color variants of the damselfish Chrysiptera oxycephala, but genetic analysis by our colleague Dita Cahyani from the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Centre has shown conclusively that the Cendrawasih Bay and Raja Ampat populations actually represent separate species.

With this genetic evidence in hand, my colleague Gerry Allen and I were delighted to describe the gorgeous lemon-yellow damsel from Cendrawasih Bay after our dear friend Maurine Shimlock. Given Maurine’s tireless efforts to explore and promote the Bird’s Head, and especially Cendrawasih Bay, naming a Cendrawasih endemic after her seemed a most fitting tribute! As an added bonus, this fish is common on the shallow reefs of Cendrawasih – which means Maurine won’t need to dive to 70m (where many of our new species finds come from nowadays!) to see her piscine namesake.

Chrysiptera ellenae – Ellen’s damselfish, found on shallow protected reefs of Raja Ampat including Wayag and Ayau lagoons, Kri lagoon, and the karst channels of SE Misool. MV Erdmann photo.

Chrysiptera ellenae – Ellen’s damselfish, found on shallow protected reefs of Raja Ampat including Wayag and Ayau lagoons, Kri lagoon, and the karst channels of SE Misool. MV Erdmann photo.

Similarly, we were also very pleased to be able to name the new Raja Ampat damsel Chrysiptera ellenae in honor of Dr. Ellen Gritz – a world-renowned cancer researcher who also happens to be a good friend and a generous supporter of the Bird’s Head Seascape. This seemed a particularly appropriate fish to name after Ellen, given its beautiful blue coloration (Ellen’s favorite!) and the fact that it is a sibling species to C. maurinae (Maurine and Ellen have been diving buddies for years!).

Life history stages of C. maurinae, where the neon blue crest in the juvenile gradually disappears to reveal a gorgeous lemon yellow adult. Photos GR Allen.

Life history stages of C. ellenae, showing the gradual change from neon blue juvenile to greenish-blue adults. Photos GR Allen.

Life history stages of C. ellenae, showing the gradual change from neon blue juvenile to greenish-blue adults. Photos GR Allen.

Both of these new species are found in close association with branching coral colonies on shallow sheltered reefs. This includes the majority of Cendrawasih’s mainland reefs for C. maurinae, and mostly lagoonal areas (such as the lagoons of Wayag, Ayau, Kri and SE Misool’s Mesempta karst channels) for C. ellenae in Raja Ampat. Both species also show significant colour changes over the course of their lifetime; C. maurinae has a neon blue upper body and bright yellow lower half as a juvenile, but over time the blue gradually disappears and the adults are bright yellow. By comparison, C. ellenae exhibits a striking neon blue juvenile phase, gradually changing to a more greenish-blue as it matures.

With the addition of these two new species, the total count for the Bird’s Head rises to 1759 reef fish species recorded, including 1563 species from Raja Ampat, 1044 from Cendrawasih, and 1053 from the FakFak-Kaimana coastline. Perhaps 2016 will be the year we break the 1800 species mark for the Bird’s Head! In the meantime, if you’re fortunate enough to be diving in Raja Ampat or Cendrawasih this year, keep a lookout for the latest two endemic fishes from the Bird’s Head!

For more information about Bird’s Head Seascape visit www.birdsheadseascape.com.

Mark Erdmann

Mark Erdmann

Dr. Mark Erdmann's work largely focuses on the management of marine protected areas, as well as research on reef fish and mantis shrimp biodiversity, satellite tracking of endangered sharks and rays, and genetic connectivity in MPA networks. Mark is the Vice President of CI’s Asia-Pacific marine programs, tasked with providing strategic guidance and technical and fundraising support to focal marine programs in CI's Asia Pacific Field Division, including especially the Bird's Head Seascape and Pacific Oceanscape initiatives, as well as marine programs in China, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Samoa and the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). Mark is a coral reef ecologist (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) who has recently moved to New Zealand, and previously lived and worked in Indonesia for 23 years. During his time there he launched and directed the Bird’s Head Seascape initiative for over a decade, developing it into one of CI's flagship marine programs globally. Mark is an avid diver and has logged over 10,000 scuba dives while surveying marine biodiversity throughout the region, discovering and describing over 150 new species of reef fish and mantis shrimp in the process. He has published over 140 scientific articles and four books, including most recently the three-volume set "Reef Fishes of the East Indies" with colleague Dr. Gerald Allen, and has been a scientific advisor to numerous natural history documentary films for the BBC, National Geographic and NHK. Erdmann was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation in 2004 for his work in marine conservation education and training for Indonesian schoolchildren, members of the press, and the law enforcement community. Though his work is now largely focused on the management of marine protected areas, his continuing research interests include reef fish and mantis shrimp biodiversity, satellite and acoustic telemetry of endangered elasmobranch species, and genetic connectivity in MPA networks. In recent years Mark has devoted significant time to supporting the Indonesian government in its efforts to improve conservation and management of its sharks and rays, including the designation of the world’s largest manta ray sanctuary in 2014. Mark maintains a research associate position with the California Academy of Sciences, supervises several Master's and PhD students at the University of Auckland, and is active on the boards of a number of NGOs working in the Coral Triangle, including Yayasan Kalabia, Reef Check Indonesia, and Manta Trust. Mark and his wife Arnaz and three children (Mica, Brahm and Cruz) live in Auckland, where he maintains a deep personal commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure his children will be able to enjoy the same high-quality underwater experiences that continue to provide the inspiration for his dedication to the marine environment.

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